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Taking Command of Your Vocal Performance

Taking Command of Your Vocal PerformanceHow can you get audiences more emotionally involved with your performance? Celebrity Voice and Performance Coach Jeannie Deva shows us how–complete with YouTube favorites…

How do you measure a great performance?

A great performance is not measured simply by how you feel at the end of it; more to the point is the response of your audience and how they feel when they leave your gig at the end of the night.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of you throwing a party. The success of the party is based upon how your guests feel about the time that they had. You may have spilled a drink or even had to run out to buy more food, but if they had a good time, that’s what matters.

A successful performance is measured similarly. You may have forgotten lyrics, or even cracked on a high note, but if you kept your audience emotionally involved with each song you sang and made their hearts sing, you succeeded.

Filling Your Performance Area

Otherwise known as stage projection, presence or charisma, the ability to take command of your performance space is an essential ingredient for skillful song delivery and performance success.

Project yourself and communicate your music

If, when you perform, you are closed-in to yourself, you will not be able to give out any effective or compelling energy from the stage. Consequently, you won’t be able to make much, if any, impact on your audience.

Conversely, extroverting your attention outward to your audience can help to give you a sense of space and certainty into which you can project yourself and communicate your music.

Being a dynamic performer does not necessarily mean jumping all over the stage.

It does mean that you fill the performance area (rather than shrink from it) and that you give to your audience rather than being focused on taking from them.

I’m not saying that you won’t get anything back, just that while singing and performing, you are placing yourself in the position of the one who puts out rather than takes in.

Of course developing a voice that you can trust and through which your emotion can flow is the flip side of the coin.

To accomplish all of these factors, having a pro vocal coach can be essential – you need to have someone who is both objective as well as knowledgeable in how to bring out the best in you, your voice and your performance.

Choosing the Right Song

You may have an excellent voice but if you have not picked the right songs, you start with a big strike against you.

If you’re not singing your own material it can be a real challenge to take a song that is well known and turn it into something distinct enough to give it your own signature.

The songs you select must include several factors:


“Selling” Your Song

Having selected the right song(s), you need to know how to sell it; how to really bring out your voice and take the risks that will make this song the most memorable performance your audience or judges have heard to date.

This in no small part depends upon your ability to commit to the song and the delivery of its communication.

As the performer, you are the travel guide

You need to know how to bring out the best of yourself and put it on the line.

When you practice, focus first on resolving any technical details; then, practice for the performance of the song.

Your audience’s attention will be guided by what your attention is on. If you are not fully engaged in your song, its meaning and message neither will your audience.

If your attention goes to something other than the delivery of the song, your audience will also lose focus. As the performer you are the travel guide.

Here are some of my YouTube performance favorites:

Celine Dion: I’m Alive

Observe how personable and generous she is towards her audience. She sings the song directly to the audience as if she was talking to them. At the song’s end when the audience begins cheering, she stays in control and continues to graciously command the performance experience, letting the audience know she appreciates them.

Whitney Houston, Live at the American Music Awards 2009: I Didn’t Know My Own Strength

When watching, be sure to expand the video to full screen. This is a study in simplicity and power of truth. While most of the shots are close-ups, you can see when the camera pans out how just having her stand stage center helps to maintain the directness of her delivery of this song. When the song is over, notice also how she accepts the applause and how that further expands the love of the audience for her.

Black Eyed Peas featuring Justin Timberlake at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards: Where is the Love

Here we have a multi-media presentation that sets the mood and message immediately. Observe how even the violin players are standing and moving which aligns with and increases the energy emanating from this performance. There is no doubt about how the performers feel about what they’re singing. As a unified group they are each individually involved and committed to it. Even the use of a male voice singing the octave lower on Fergie’s sung chorus adds dimension to and helps the message of that section stand out.

Michael Jackson Tribute – Siedah Garrett and the Agape International Choir: Man in the Mirror

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a singer able to take a Michael Jackson song and do it justice compared to the original. Perhaps it’s because she wrote the song; perhaps it’s because she is so moved from the tragic experience that shocked the world. But here we have a performer with a voice and heart who has all elements aligned to make this song her own and perform it with complete embodiment of its meaning. She reaches into your soul and move you. She’s not just singing it to herself. She includes the audience as part of the experience – this is a truly giving performance. Note what happens energy-wise when she takes the mic off the stand: a perfect moment which builds and builds to a fabulous peak performance.

Most successful performers develop their skills from experience over a long period of time. But if you work on each aspect of performance as you do your voice, you’ll be able to acquire these skills faster than by hit or miss experiences.

May you take the stage by storm!

Best wishes ~Jeannie Deva

Jeannie Deva

Jeannie Deva is the Celebrity Voice and Performance Coach seen on E! Entertainment and TV Guide Channels as well as many other television and radio talk shows. Jeannie is author of the internationally acclaimed Contemporary Vocalist book and CD series, as well as The Deva Method Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs CD. Past and present clients include Grammy Award Winners, American Idol finalists, members of the J. Geils Band, Foghat, Felecia Howse of Bone Thugs n’ Harmony, Lynda Carter, Broadway leads in Fame, Color Purple, Lion King and Wicked, singers for Sting, Stevie Wonder, Pink, Celine Dion, Joss Stone, Christina Aguilera. Jeannie’s private studio is located in Los Angeles. She teaches in house and internationally via Internet web cam.

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© 2010 Jeannie Deva reprinted with permission. The Deva Method and Jeannie Deva are registered trademarks owned by Jeannie Deva Enterprises, Inc.